(Author’s Note: Due to access to a really nice camera, this is a very photo-heavy post. Scroll all the way to the bottom for pretty flowers, a kitty who thinks he’s supposed to be a chef, and other Sunday Dinner fun!)
As summer is getting into full swing and the temperature is steadily increasing, I’m finding myself more and more excited about grill season. The funny thing is, I don’t actually believe there is a “grill season”. When I had a grill in college (and have not had one since) I would happily bundle up in my coat and boots just to stand in the snow and grill a piece of chicken for dinner. Of course, this required a gas grill, which I no longer have access to. However, the boys do have a trusty Weber charcoal grill that we’ve been firing up regularly. A couple of weeks ago they made some delicious kabobs, a summer staple, for Sunday Dinner.
This week though I had a hankering for something a little more exotic, so I decided to try my hand at tandoori chicken. Traditionally made in a clay tandoor oven that is buried in the ground and heated by charcoal or wood, tandoori chicken is an Indian and Pakistani dish that is marinated in yogurt and flavored with a spice blend called tandoori masala. The recipe below is, as always, a blend of quite a few that I read. Essentially I took the list of spices that I found in other recipes and came up with my own proportions. Some of you might balk at the use of red food coloring, but it actually seems that Indian groceries sell tandoori coloring. It seems that the original recipe requires Kashmiri chili powder which is not, unfortunately, widely available. I’m sure I could order some – and I have been known to order special ingredients from time to time – but for now, this version is flavorful and colorful enough for me. And it got great reviews from The Boys! The addition of buttermilk is not traditional, but I find that it’s a great tenderizing agent. Beware that this recipe benefits from a very long time in the marinade, so I would suggest letting all of the flavors meld for at least 24 hours. I let mine go for at least 36.
This week we invited a fourth person to Sunday Dinner (usually just me, Andy, and “Chocolate”) – Mark. Mark is a member of DC’s ever-present intern class. He’s a law student from Ohio, working an unpaid internship at one of those esteemed government agencies that dot our city’s landscape, and also working nights at the bar to make ends meet. I have to say, he’s going to be one busy guy this summer! When I found out that he was living in a dorm and only had a mini-fridge and a microwave I promptly invited him to dinner. Subsisting on food that can only be microwaved or have milk poured on it is not living! Luckily, Mark is also a really funny guy who tells hilarious stories and was happy to entertain for his dinner. Perfect!
We served the chicken with basmati rice, naan bread (sadly from the store) and a mess of roasted eggplant and Egyptian onions. Also known as Walking Onions or Tree Onions, these babies are basically little pearl onions that grow in a very strange way (or at least it seems that way to me). One stalk shoots up from a bulb and produces little sets of small onions, which then each shoot up another stalk that produces a set of bulbs. I got my stash from my parents’ neighbors who have huge patches of them all over their garden. You can also use the stalks like chives, so they’re really a great vegetable to have.
“Chocolate” also made Sticky Rice with Mangoes for dessert, which was a perfect ending to the meal. Photos below. Basically you mix cooked rice (our leftover basmati) with butter, coconut milk, and sugar, then serve with a mango!
Grilled Tandoori Chicken
2 + cups Greek style yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tsp salt
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger (if you have fresh ginger, use it!)
1 tsp chili powder
Shake of ground cloves and ground cumin
10 drops red food coloring
2 tbsp agave nectar (can substitute honey)
2 onions, thin
2 whole chickens, cut up into parts and skins removed
Combine yogurt, buttermilk, spices, food coloring and onions in a bowl and mix thoroughly. You can either marinate the chicken directly in the bowl if it’s big enough, or you can place the chicken in large Ziploc bags and add the marinade. Either way, make sure they’re sealed up and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Remove from the fridge about a half hour before you want to grill so that it can start coming to room temperature. You can use an indirect grilling method (which we did), or grill on high heat. Considering that tandoor ovens can get close to 500 degrees, I think you’d definitely be safe on the higher end of the spectrum. Just make sure that it gets a good char and reaches 165 degrees internal temperature (meat thermometer is hand for this!).
Roasted Eggplant and Egyptian (Pearl or Petite) Onions
1 whole eggplant
2 cups petite onions, skins removed
Salt and pepper
Ice vinegar (can substitute balsamic)
Sometimes eggplant can be bitter, but one way to combat that is to pre-salt it and then rise it before you use it. I sliced my eggplant into ½” to ¾” rounds, lightly salted both sides, and then covered it with plastic wrap for about an hour (but 30 minutes will suffice). The salt will draw out some of the water, but it will also counteract the bitterness. If you can use them exactly as they are or rinse them off a bit before you use them to avoid overly salty eggplant. Either way works.
Once the eggplant is ready, cut it into cubes and toss with onions. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. The onions should be soft and lightly browned and the eggplant should be tender. Sprinkle just a little vinegar on them for a bit of acidity. We used a special ice vinegar (made from super sweet ice wine) that “Chocolate” had on hand. It was delicious!